Begonias are a family of flowering plants that includes over 1,800 different species. Begonias are popular because of their bright, colourful flowers and decorative foliage. Begonias can be found in a variety of habitats, ranging from tropical to subtropical and temperate regions.
Begonias are herbaceous plants, which means that they have no woody trunk and have soft, flexible stems. The leaves of begonias can vary in size and shape, from small round leaves to large elephant ear shaped leaves.
What are the origins of begonia?
Begonia was first described by the French botanist Charles Plumier in 1703. Plumier discovered the plant during one of his expeditions. The genus Begonia is one of the largest genera of flowering plants, with over 1,800 different species described to date. These species vary considerably in size, shape, colour and habitat.
Charles Plumier was a French botanist, illustrator and writer who travelled to the Caribbean in the 17th century to study the flora of the region. During his travels, Plumier discovered many plants that were unknown in Europe at the time, and he reported his findings in several published works.
It was during a trip to Haiti in 1690 that Plumier discovered the first plants of the genus Begonia. He observed these plants in flower in the rainforest and studied them closely, noting their distinctive features, including their asymmetrical leaves, unisexual flowers and winged fruit. He named his discovery after Michel Bégon, a governor of Guadeloupe and an avid plant collector.
Plumier brought specimens of these plants back to Europe, where they were examined and described by other botanists of the time. In 1703, Plumier published his work "Nova Plantarum Americanarum Genera", in which he described the genus Begonia and named the plant after Michel Begon, a French governor of Guadeloupe and an avid plant collector.
Plumier's discovery paved the way for further exploration and understanding of Begoniacea, which are now widely cultivated and appreciated for their ornamental beauty throughout the world.
Who are the begonia botanists?
After Charles Plumier, several other botanists worked on the classification and description of begonia species. Here are some of the most notable botanists who have contributed to the study of begonias:
- Michel Adanson: a French botanist who published "Famille des Plantes" in 1763, which included an early classification of begonias. Adanson studied plants in France and in West Africa, where he worked as a clerk in Senegal from 1749 to 1754. During his stay in Senegal, Adanson collected and described the begonia.
- John Lindley: a British botanist who studied begonias and published a monograph on the genus in 1846. Lindley described many new species and proposed a more systematic classification for the genus. In 1846, Lindley published a monograph on begonias entitled "The Genera and Species of Begoniaceae". In this book he proposed a new classification of the genus Begonia, based on the morphology of the plants. He also described many new species of begonias and established criteria for the creation of new species.
- Émile Antoine Jules Linden: a Belgian botanist who travelled to South America to study plants and collected numerous specimens of begonias. Linden published several books on begonias and described many new species. Linden published many books on the plants, including "The Begonias" in 1883, which is still considered an important reference for begonia lovers and specialists. He also worked with other horticulturists and botanists to develop new plant varieties, including hybrid begonias.
- Joseph Dalton Hooker: a British botanist who described many species of begonias in his book "The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage" in 1844.
Initially, begonias were misunderstood and often mislabelled. Charles Plumier, who discovered the genus Begonia, initially classified them as "cucurbits" because of their similarity to pumpkins and squash. However, as botanists studied these plants more closely, they began to understand their true nature and diversity.
Is begonia hardy?
The hardiness of begonias depends on the species and variety in question. In general, most begonias are tropical plants that are not hardy and do not tolerate temperatures below 10°C. This means that they cannot survive cold winters or freezing temperatures.
However, some begonia species are hardier and can tolerate colder temperatures. For example, begonia grandis and begonia sutherlandii are hardier species that can survive temperatures slightly below 0°C, although they need winter protection to survive the coldest winters.
Some species, such as begonia fuchsioides or begonia dreigei are not frost resistant and therefore need to be protected from the cold during the winter.
In the end, it can be said that begonias are fascinating plants with a long history of study and cultivation, and their beauty and diversity continue to inspire plant lovers and botanists around the world.